In 1990, as a grad student at Roosevelt University, I won the McGraw-Hill Award for a white paper I authored on the disruptive effect of digital publishing (then “Desktop Publishing”) on B2B marketing. At the time, I thought the paper was pretty good and the prize money really came in handy, but over the years, I appreciated more and more the wisdom of the committee that selected it; because the thesis relates to all disruptive technologies in marketing communications – past, present, and future. The last line of the paper stated, “The tools may change, but the craftsmen will remain the same.” Today, does this include social media as well?
In the early 90’s, Macintosh changed the landscape of marketing communications. Typesetters and film houses were dropping like flies and marketing managers were actually quoted as saying to their agencies, “We don’t need you anymore. We have a Mac and a secretary. We’re taking our work in-house.”
In retrospect, it sounds naïve to think that technology can completely replace talent. But look at what’s happening in social media today.
Before the dawn of social media, there was a concentration of publishers and news professionals who found, verified, analyzed, and reported news. It was a craft driven by rigorous training and innate talent, very much like the allied marcom/creative businesses. Millions of consumers trusted the facts, opinions, and analysis of these relatively few elite professionals.
Today, the tables are turned: everyone is a publisher. And the questions loom − who’s gonna read all this stuff, and how much is even worth reading?. Twitter. Blogs. Facebook. MySpace. LinkedIn. And what about all the distractions and loss of personal and professional productivity that result at work, home, and even in the middle of physical conversations?
Too many publishers, not enough readers
Royal Pingdom1 reports that in 2009, there were 126,000,000 blogs posted on the Internet (as tracked by BlogPulse). Compare that to the world stock of original books published in all of history is estimated to be between 74 million books and 175 million books (you can read how this estimate was made at: http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info-2003/print.htm#books). Add to the blog population:
- 20 billion – Number of tweets on Twitter (since March, 2010 alone, 10 billion)
- 57% – Percentage of Twitter’s user base located in the United States
- 5.36 million – People following @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher)
- 5.45 million – People following Brittany Spears on Twitter
- 488 million – People on Facebook
Will it dumb us down?
With this volume of new, unqualified information being dumped into the Internet every day, what is the fate of the micropublisher and what impact will he/she will have on brand marketing? Will markets fragment into infinitely smaller pieces, giving one-to-one marketing a new definition? Will social media find its niche in customer service and consumer advocacy? Will we swing back closer to the old model in which we’d rather consume less quantity, higher quality information?
At the end of the day, the tools may change, but the craftsmen will most likely remain the same. How might this affect the way you use social media in business? Blog it here.
Steve Huston said:
Five years ago it seemed that everyone was asking a similar question: “with so much information available to us is it even remotely possible to think that we can process so many ideas in a useful way?” Back then this comment was primarily spoken about the abundance of web pages. The biggest information scandal focused on the reliability of wikipedia. True knowledge snobs turned their noses to the question and said they would never rely on the Internet for “real” information and that web sites needed to be taken with a grain of salt.
And now with social media we still have tons of web sites published by self-proclaimed experts (who may be real or not) but now we also have micro data that has clouded our information sphere. I got hooked on Facebook a few years ago and once I started finding old classmates and friends I was drawn in further. I found myself logging in multiple times a day just to see if I might discover an old friend from long ago or to hear a juicy tidbit from a current acquaintance. But eventually something happened. I lost interest in the reports of weather in Tucson, or that people I was close to in high school, but since have grown distant, had a son or daughter (who I’ve never met or even know what they look like) said something amazing or cute. My own kids needed my time, my job required my brain power, my other pursuits didn’t lessen. So, I began to do less and less on Facebook, and on twitter. The information was trivial but not very relevant.
That said, I began to adapt over time as I learned more about the tools. I began to find articles on how to filter the information so that I found only that which I really wanted. It took time and I’ve still got a ways to go, but with the onslaught of information now available the next wave of social media will be the undercurrent of filtering the data. Tools that help users sift through information looking for what is important to me are going to be the next big thing in social media. Much like Google helped one navigate the seas of information 5 to 8 years ago someone is going to come up with a better way of screening the data that comes to me.
In conjunction with filters there will be one other emergent item in the social media that will seem like a breakthrough but in many cases it will not be: the repackaging of the slew of information. Already there are aggregators out there. They may seem like they are helping in that they collect the feeds of multiple streams into one large one and then make it look pretty. However, it will still remain the glut of information it already was. True filtering is the result of aggregation and analysis of the information (the harder of the two tasks).